Archive | November, 2013

Through His Words: Day Three

24 Nov

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

Day Three:

Monday, July 18, 1938 
On board ship        
Chapter 3


Today has been a little more active. Got up at 10:00 as a bunch of us sat on deck till 2:00 A.M. I missed breakfast so I got into my bathing suit and went into the pool (salt water) and then out in the sun on a deck chair and got pretty well sun burned. Went to lunch and then came to the sport deck and played shuffle board. It’s a lot of fun and was thinking that you would enjoy this as the sea is as calm as Lake Michigan on a nice day.

Alex missed Maude. They had spent time apart before, but only because of his work. She would later say that her one regret was not going with him on this trip. They were married in 1919 at Guardian Angels in Chicago. In a bulletin dated February 19, 1919, the editor wrote:

In our years at Guardian Angels, we have never seen so touchingly impressive a wedding service in the little church as that celebrated on a recent Saturday morning. The sweet simplicity of it all; the quiet wedding group in the Sanctuary, (Alex and Maude kneeling on white draped prie-deus)… When they came down the aisle, Maude was so attractive in her dainty wedding gown and filmy veil, and Alex so thoroughly justified the pride we have felt in him these many years….


1948, wearing a Georgiana Jordan gown at daughter Marion’s wedding

They have various games to kill time on board as well as concerts, dancing and movies. I have met some interesting people, some from Chicago, and some like me traveling for the first time. One fellow I met from Indianapolis has travelled all over the world and is now going to Turkey, Egypt and Persia. There are 14 nuns on board, all Italians going to Italy to complete their studies, and about 7 or 8 priests, among which is Father Peoria, whom I know. We spend quite a bit of time together.

Alex was not a man used to a lot of leisure time. In 1918, at the age of 24, he enlisted with the U.S. Naval Engineers and was assigned to the construction division of the Bureau of Yards and Docks in the Navy Department in Washington D.C. He was instrumental in the design and erection of various Naval buildings including the huge Navy and Munitions  buildings which, at the time, were the largest buildings in the world in terms of floor space.




Tonight they are showing another movie with Tyrone Power and Loretta Young, which I saw before. I am getting cheated as far as the movies go as I have seen all of the ones so far. But it gives me extra time to write to you. 

Funny thing is, shortly after Alex met Maude, she brought him home to meet her parents. When her mother saw him, she told Maude not to go out with him because he was too skinny! Lucky for Alex, Maude ignored the advice.

When I think of my grandmother Maude, words that come to mind include demure, modest, quiet, ladylike, respectable, and decent. Here’s a photo from her early childhood, perhaps at Confirmation.


Although she hated having her picture taken, she was very social and especially loved her ladies clubs, dancing and going out to dinner.


1915, both 21, before they knew each other

With friends, Maude, (upper middle), with a little mischief in her eyes

With friends, Maude, (upper middle), with a little mischief in her eyes

Unlike Alex, Maude Pacelli was born in America. So was her mother and her grandmother. Little did I know that my great, great, great, grandmother was born in the U.S. Her father worked for Rheingold Brewery from the young age of 16, and was head brewmaster when he retired at the age of 86, a 70 year – one company career. Her brother Bill was a Chicago alderman. 


Maude was a devoted wife and mother and a great cook. Growing up, I remember homemade ravioli spread out on beds when we would go to her house for holiday dinners. Her sausage stuffing was my dad’s favorite. She loved to sit at the kitchen or dining room table surrounded by family and tell stories. And most of all, she loved to laugh.


Mackinac Island, MI: Maude (middle) with Alex and his cousin, date unknown

At 4:00 P.M., they serve tea and cake and dance and generally keep things humming so that there are few dull moments. There was a beautiful sunset on the ocean and I took a movie of it hoping it will come out so I may show it to you when I return.

Regards to all. Love to you, the boys, my little girl, and Ruth and Pa.  

Love, Al

To be continued.


For more information on the Naval buildings, click on the link.


14 Nov

Sometimes, we walk by a place, take note, and know we need to return. That was the case for us with Preludio, an elegant restaurant in Cortona. Unfortunately it took us three summers to eat there, but now it’s on our annual To-Do list.


From the outside looking in, it seems as though this is a restaurant for celebrating an occasion – a birthday, an anniversary, etc.  Draped linens adorn the tables which are set with long stem wine glass and glowing candles.



Local friends Luca and Simone first introduced us to the restaurant and assured us that wanting great food is occasion enough.  Fortunately for us, they did all the ordering, but I must admit, we dined as if we were celebrating a big occasion. First things first, some incredible wine from the Bolgheri region of Italy.




Then on to the primi. The attention to detail at Preludio is as incredible as the food, and the presentation of each dish is truly a work of art. I especially loved how our friends chose their favorite local and regional dishes to share with us. While I can’t remember the names of many of the dishes,  I do remember the taste.




Escalope of foie gras sauce, lettuce, grapefruit and potatoes pumpkin

Not being such a foie gras aficionado, I was very content sitting next to this incredible fondue!


For the secondo, we were treated to a Tuscan trio – two pastas with meat and one saffron porcini risotto with black truffle. I headed right for the risotto!


Although two-thirds of my plate was still covered, our friends wanted us to share a Florentine steak. With no more room for dinner, we finally agreed on dessert which they insisted was mandatory. Well, feast your eyes!


According to their website:

Preludio is always looking for new challenges posed by the evolution of taste, frequently revisited by combining creativity and continuity and adapting it to the current seasons. 

Do not ask us what is our main dish, because our ambition is to ensure that every dish that leaves our kitchen is new and unique…

Sometimes a night doesn’t need a special occasion to celebrate as the night itself becomes the occasion.  Our dinner at Preludio with our local friends was one of those nights. Grazie for a special night we will long remember.


Just like in English, the name Preludio (prelude) means the beginning or an introduction. I’m so glad we’ve been introduced!




Len and I enjoyed the restaurant so much, we returned another evening for a “simpler” dinner of risotto, salmon, artichokes and potatoes. We’ll be back for more. 

Through His Words: Day Two

6 Nov

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

Day Two:

Sunday, July 17, 1938 
(On board ship)        
Chapter 2

Darling Maude,

A little news a day to tell you of some of the things aboard ship. I was fooled this morning in the matter of attending mass. It was scheduled for 10:00 A.M. but when I went there the services were over and this was the last mass for the rest of the day. 

What Alex didn’t realize was that each day on the ship, beginning that Sunday, the time would be set ahead 50 minutes. Six days, 60 minutes ahead each day would put their arrival in Napoli on the correct CET or Central European Time.

However, they have services each day and I shall make up for missing today.

Alex was a quiet man, but one of determination and of self-discipline. His father was a cobbler by trade. His mother died when he was a child. He was brought to America by his parents when he was four.

Alex attended Chicago public grade school, graduated from Joseph Medill High School, attended the Armour Institute of Technology, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Chicago Technical College for required architectural coursework, then finished the last year of his architectural studies under private tutors and under home-made sausage.


Per Aunt Marion, “My dad’s father made home-made Italian sausage and he would hang it in my dad’s bedroom to dry. My dad said that when he was studying to be an architect, he would lie in his bed to study and reach up and grab a hunk of sausage!

So that’s the secret to passing an exam!

In 1916, he passed the state board of exams for architects and became the first Italian American architect licensed in the state of Illinois. Cost to attend his celebration banquet at the Sherman House? $2.50.


I am trying to find out anything and everything that concerns my touring, and I am told there are many things I can’t or must not do. You know all the boxes of cigars I got when I left? Well, I can not bring them either into Italy or France, so I am making a hit with them by giving them to the stewards a little each day and they go over big, believe me!

He smoked Perfecto Garcia Queen cigars – seven a day at a cost of $1.00 each. When I look through all the old photographs, it’s hard to find one when there is not a cigar in his hand or mouth.


And while today I find this pretty gross, I am reminded of the times. Just recently, I saw a bit of the movie Coco Before Channel. There she was, Coco Chanel, classy and elegant, face to face with a wealthy patron pinning a custom hat or suit, with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. Incredible.

Many people are traveling alone on board and the coldness and the stiffness of the first couple of days will be broken in another day or so and more sociability will be in the atmosphere. You eat, drink, and sleep, and walk around the deck, and when you are finished doing this you start all over again. 

Adventure, loneliness, monotony, anticipation, inquisitiveness, wonder…a flock of feelings for the sole traveler on day two of his journey to his place of birth.

It has been a little cloudy today, but the ocean has been fairly calm. Tomorrow I expect to take a swim and play shuffle board as well as get suntanned and even burned perhaps.

Millions of kisses and love to everyone,


To be continued.



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